The tent flysheet is what keeps the elements out. Somewhere in the tent specification you’re going to see a figure something like this 3000mmHH or HH: 3000mm, this is a measure of waterproofness. The HH stands for hydrostatic head and it is the extent to which the tent material can withstand a column of water, in this case 3000mm of water. The higher the figure the more waterproof the tent is. Just to let you know 800mmHH is the minimum requirement for waterproofness and all tents are greater than that.
From my experience the size of your tent is proportional to the amount of sleep you’re going to get. If you’re a family of four lying on four foam mats then you need a four person tent but you won’t get any sleep. If you’re a family of four sleeping soundly on four comfy airbeds then you need a five person tent because the comfy airbeds won’t fit into a four person tent. Buy a bigger tent than you think you’re going to need.
The Tent Porch
An advantage of a larger tent is the porch size. For camping jaunts with the family I recommend you get a tent porch you can have a game of Cluedo in, or at the very least Connect 4.
The fully sewn-in groundsheet is great for keeping the bugs out, and the rain and the wind and the kids, no, not the kids, sorry. But, as with everything, there is always good and bad. The bad points are cost and excess condensation. A tent with a fully sewn-in groundsheet is more expensive because it cost more to manufacture so there’s no way round that. It does keep the tent warmer, which in most cases is a good thing, but in certain conditions it can get too warm and too humid. Luckily there are ventilation options to cool things down, so on the whole I think a sewn-in groundsheet is worth the extra cost.
Tent poles are the one item that people complain about most. Unfortunately they are also the only part of the tent that doesn’t fall under the tents warranty. Tent poles break in strong winds or if you don’t erect the tent correctly- that is a fact of camping life. There are three main types of tent pole: aluminium, carbon fibre and fibreglass. Aluminium is the strongest and the heaviest and the most expensive, carbon fibre is normally found in hiking tents and fibreglass is the least expensive, which is probably why it’s the most popular. Fibreglass, although not the best, is still good for summer family camping in a nice sheltered valley.
How many home-from-home luxuries do you need when you’re camping? Are roll-up blinds essential? How many lanterns can you hang? Do you require an electrical point? Will you put your tent up in the dark and need reflective webbing? If you’re 5 foot 5 do you need 7 foot headroom? I don’t think you do.
If you’re buying a tent and not sure which one to go for, have a look at these tent reviews , it might save you some time. If you want outdoor gear reviews, in general, this link should be informative.